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Customer sees double with new Westar Energy meter

By Brian Heap
Published On: Dec 24 2013 06:41:40 PM CST
Updated On: Dec 11 2013 05:39:08 PM CST
WICHITA, Kan. -

If you're one of the 16,000 customers in Wichita with a digital electric meter you might be noticing a big difference in your bills.

Philip Birkenfeld wants to shine light on what he thinks is problem with the new high-tech meters.  Over the summer the utility company upgraded Birkenfeld's meter and his bills skyrocketed.

"From the time they installed the new meter my usage had doubled," he told FactFinder 12 Investigators.

Birkenfeld provided FF12 with his meter records. Since September, every reading is significantly higher when compared with the same month in 2012.  His October and November kilowatt usage more than doubled.

Link: About Westar's Meter Reading

Birkenfeld says Westar's only answer for him was that his old meter must not have been accurate.

"Got no explanation for you, got no suggestions. thanks for calling, pay your bill."

Citing customer privacy rules, Westar Energy refused to talk with FF12 about Birkenfeld's case specifically.  However, a spokeswoman said over time the older-style mechanical meters may slow down and lose their accuracy.

Link:Check Your Energy Usage

Westar says a lot of variables, including the addition of new appliances and having visitors stay over could result in higher usage.  The spokeswoman said seasonal differences from one year to the next may not seem obvious but can make a difference.

Birkenfeld says his consumption hasn't changed.  If anything, he thinks he's conserving more energy by unplugging chargers and other devices that aren't in use.

He now feels penalized in a way and wishes he hadn't agreed to the meter swap.  "I don't feel as though I should have said yes now," he said.

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